Their impressive grade point averages are nearly as identical as Alexis and Olivia Bergman, so it’s fitting that they’ll deliver the final thoughts for the Swanton High School Class of 2020.
Alexis, with a 4.61 GPA, was chosen as valedictorian, and Olivia, with a 4.58 GPA, as salutatorian for the graduating class, which will gather during the coronavirus pandemic for a drive-through commencement ceremony at the high school on May 24. On June 3, the class will meet at the Field of Dreams Drive-In Theater in Liberty Center to watch the videotaped activities on the big screen.
The screening will include the 18-year-old twins’ pre-taped speeches, with Alexis focusing on the opportunities diversity presents and Olivia asking the question, “Who are you becoming?”
“We were really honored and excited that we were able to get those honors together – that is wasn’t just one of us,” Olivia said. “We enjoy sharing our successes, and it just makes it twice as nice…because we worked so hard together.”
Alexis added, “Being first in my class wouldn’t be the same if Olivia wasn’t with me.”
As for the infinitesimal difference in their GPAs, both Alexis and Olivia shrug if off. “It’s just a matter of if maybe one of us got an A on a test and the other one got an A-plus,” Olivia said.
Alexis agreed, saying, “You get compared. People try to find differences, who’s better at what. But you can’t dwell on that.”
They’ll admit there was more of a rivalry between them throughout elementary school. “But when we got into junior high and high school we worked together,” Olivia said. “We learned how to use the competition to push each other and rejoice in each other’s successes. There was some competition but we worked for each other rather than against each other.”
They began attending Swanton High School during their sophomore year after transferring from Monclova Christian Academy. They took honors courses and advanced placement classes together, and earned 21 college credits along the way.
“Since we were little our parents always motivated us to do our best,” Alexis said. “We pushed each other to work hard and develop study habits. We had God-given abilities but we also worked hard for it over the years.”
They shared interests in English and history, but neither was a fan of math or science. Although their academic tastes were similar, Alexis and Olivia will diverge in their pursuit of careers. Both will attend Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., and while both will play softball there Alexis plans to study business and Olivia elementary special education.
“While we have a lot of similarities, there’s also a lot of differences between us. It wasn’t a surprise to us when we were thinking about (separate) careers,” Olivia said. “Being a twin, you automatically get compared to each other all the time. You get used to that. Our parents, though, did a good job of not comparing us with each other or comparing our successes. I never felt that from our parents.”
Their mother, Kelly Bergman, said she and their father, Chris, made a concerted effort not to compare their daughters.
“They’re individuals. They’re both going to shine in their own way. I would never, ever compare them,” she said.
As for their academic prowess, Bergman said the twins were self-motivated from the beginning.
“They always worked together, even when they were little girls,” she said. “I never put pressure on them at all. They just wanted to do well. I knew (their senior class standings) were possible, but I told them, ‘Just do your best, that’s all we can ask for. It will work out.’”
Swanton High School Principal Jason Longbrake, himself an identical twin, called Alexis and Olivia “just incredible people. You’ll never meet another two kids who are smiling, upbeat, and happy all the time. There’s no competition between them. They push each other and they’re happy for one another.”
Longbrake said the Bergman twins are leaders not just in school but in the community and their church.
“They’re just all-around great kids who we could ask to do anything and they wouldn’t think twice. We were blessed to have them in Swanton,” he said.
Both said they would have preferred a traditional graduation ceremony but understand the unusual circumstances.
“Although we don’t get to experience a traditional ceremony, we are excited about the drive-in and are going to make the most of it,” Olivia said. “We are thankful for the Swanton community for making it special for the seniors, despite the situation.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.